Despite a general decline in
business, some lessors seem to be going through the economic
downturn relatively unaffected. That’s what appears to be happening
at Liberty Leasing, the Southampton-based asset finance company
specialising in prestige vehicles.

Paul Sheedy, one of the company’s three
directors, said: “We’ve had the best start of year since we first
incorporated in 2001, lending more money for the first five months
this year than we’ve ever done before.”

With a £20 million (€23.7 million) book and a
turnover of £6 million for the January to May 2009 period, Liberty
Leasing has confirmed a trend that was already seen last year,
right before the start of the recession.

At the time, Sheedy told Leasing Life that he
expected the strong growth that Liberty Leasing experienced between
2004 and 2007, when its loan portfolio nearly quadrupled, to
continue throughout 2008.

“Since last year, nothing has really changed
for us,” Sheedy said. “We continue to be focused on those assets
that we believe have a value and always get an independent
valuation for them.”

Representing around 60 percent of Liberty
Leasing’s total business, prestige vehicles continue to be the core
area for the company. Clients include all types of businesses,
although the vehicles are usually leased to company directors and
senior management. For remarketing vehicles at the end of a lease,
Liberty Leasing has a strong relationship with a local prestige car

According to Sheedy, being a small player has
also helped because it has allowed the company “not to rush to
lend, but cherry-pick deals”, choosing only those lessees it
believes are healthy enough to pay.

There have been some areas in which less
business has been recorded, however; namely limousines and CVs,
where demand has fallen greatly, and new plant and machinery, which
has seen nearly no demand at all, Sheedy said.

Residual values have also been affected and
arrears have seen a slight increase too.

In the case of arrears, however, Sheedy said
that being a small company allowed them to meet the clients, trying
to restructure agreements with struggling businesses to help them
through the downturn. Taking “decent” deposits has also covered
Liberty Leasing in case of defaulting clients.

Likewise, with RVs, Sheedy said that
“evaluations done a year ago were slightly out, but not to a great
degree. Values have definitely dropped, but, as far as we are
concerned, we are still getting reasonable values for them to cover
any debt that may arrive”.